The football playoff scenario for the Portland Panthers this week is simple: a win over visiting Creekwood on Friday would nail a spot in the TSSAA postseason slated to open Nov. 8.
A Panther loss would force the Purple to wait until the Montgomery Central-White House Heritage match-up next week to determine the final playoff berth.
The Red Hawks, under third year coach Houston Thiel, were picked second in the region in preseason polls. Creekwood stands at 7-1, with their lone loss a 22-21 setback to Montgomery Central. The Panthers defeated the Indians on Sept. 6.
"Creekwood is big and strong and physical," Portland Head Coach Greg Cavanah said Sunday. "They have a lot of seniors. Their quarterback runs the offense well, the running backs are hard nosed, and they have a huge line.
The Red Hawks are led by quarterback Elijah Donaldson, who has reached the century mark in passing yards in several games and runs the spread offense. Sam Batey has been Donaldson's primary target. Senior Danny Stansberry rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2018 and returns this season. Mitch Duke and Will Sector will also see action in the backfield.
"They will run some option," Cavanah noted. "Creekwood has big guys up front and like to gain 3 or 4 yards a play."
Creekwood's offensive line includes seniors Zach Bone and Stone Collins -- who weigh 285 and 255 pounds, respectively -- along with Hunter Stokes and Adam Vicker.
In their seven-man front defense, the Red Hawks have Stansberry, Duke, Bone, Sector, Jair Rubio, Collins, Drake Griffin, Dj Riley and Garret Hunter.
Creekwood opened the season with a 17-0 win over county rival Dickson County and followed that by defeating Camden Central 41-27. Their first region victory came over Greenbrier 45-7 followed by a 37-7 win at Harpeth. The Red Hawks lost to Montgomery Central 22-21 before handing Sycamore a 42-14 setback. Creekwood outlasted White House Heritage 49-27 as Stansberry rushed for three touchdowns and last Friday the team scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat White House 35-28.
The Panthers, needing a win in the region, have 2,962 total yards in nine games with 2,162 coming on the ground. Quarterback Caleb Mandrell has rushed for 834 yards and 19 touchdowns and added 800 yards through the air. Devyn Fuqua has rushed for 595 yards on 86 carries and four scores and Cade Box has accumulated 409. Dairius Bell has recorded 23 catches for 364 yards and four scores.
Defensive, the Purple are allowing 326.8 yards per game including 1,791 on the ground.
"We need to cut down on penalties and protect the football," Cavanah commented about keys to winning. "We have to do a better job in special teams.
In 2019, the Panthers lost 14-6 to the Red Hawks.